A Philosophy of Smartypants
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
The intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
I come from a family of smart alecks. My brother is a wise guy. My sister is a know-it-all. My dad holds back but it’s no mystery where we got it from. We are a family of smartypants, with the glaring exception of my mother.
Even in the myopia of adolescence, I knew that my mother was more in tune with God than anybody I had ever met, but I also found her unforgivably boring. So in high school and into college, I read lots of books by acclaimed religious and secular authors, jumped enthusiastically into spiritual debates at Bible study, and generally made it my goal to become the kind of Christian who thought deeply and quipped easily, not the kind who sat on the outskirts of dinnertime banter. My goal had very little to do with poverty of spirit, submission, humility—the message of the cross, etc etc. But you couldn’t convince me that I was missing the point because I had spiritualized my thirst for worldly cleverness.
If you’ve bought into the philosophy of the age, chances are you don’t notice you’ve done so. To you, it’s just the way it is until somebody cleans your glasses. The Jews wanted signs and the Greeks loved persuasive reasoning. When they became Christians their cultural ideals crept noiselessly into their spiritual ones, muddying the waters and threatening to edge out the true gospel. American believers must learn to distinguish ideals of self-reliance from the gospel. As I became an adult, I adopted a “Christianesque” philosophy that nobody could argue against in theory—that is, until you looked carefully enough to notice that the center of it wasn’t Christ.
Because I know myself, I have to actively suppress smart-alecky impulses and constantly examine my motivations. It’s not fun; I’m ashamed of myself most of the time, but heartened that the Holy Spirit finds me worth convicting. Thank God that He doesn’t leave us as He finds us.